The one of the legendary American actors, Michael Constantine is no more. The actor popularly known for playing the role of the proud Windex-loving father Gus Portokalos in the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” died at the age of 94.
According to the news report, the actor took his last breath on 31st August, and the news of was not announced until now by his family to the local news outlet of Reading, The Reading Eagle.
Michael’s family announced that Constantine died peacefully at his residence in Reading, Pennsylvania. The actor passed away due to natural causes. However, he was struggling with an illness for a long time. The illness was not disclosed by the family.
As per Michael’s family, Michael was surrounded by his family and loved ones at the time of his death. Moreover, Michael’s sisters, Patricia Gordon and Chris Dobbs, were also present. Michael’s brother-in-law, Michael Gordon, disclosed to the new outlet that Constantine had been battling with an illness, which was not disclosed, for several years.
Later, the news of Michael’s passing was also confirmed by his representative Ms. Julia Buchwald, to the news outlets such as CNN and Variety.
Michael was born in the year 1927 to Greek immigrant parents. Born and raised in the city of Reading, Pennsylvania, Michael, whose real name was Gus Efstratiou, loved the city of his birth as his own kid. In fact, even Michael’s family did not fail to mention Constantine’s live for Reading while talking to The Reading Eagle.
Gordon, Michael’s brother-in-law, stated, “Last week he could still sing all four stanzas of the Reading High School alma mater from memory,. He’s always considered himself a Reading native. People would come up and say, ‘You’re from California,’ (and he’d say) ‘Oh no, I’m from Reading.’
Michael’s sister Patricia also pitched in and told The Reading Eagle that her brother loved his hometown. “He came back here right after he won his Emmy for ‘Room 222.’ But then he was called back to California. He always loved coming home. He was very much a family person. He loved his children, his siblings, his parents,” said Patricia.
Michael was always interested in acting With his keen interest in acting. With the aim to become an amazing actor, which he eventually did, Michael decided to learn the skill of acting. In order to do so, Michael studied acting under the mentorship of brilliant actors like Howard da Silva.
Meanwhile, young Michael began working in the field of acting on the New York stage. Soon, Constantine took a first step towards his passion and began working as the under-study to Paul Muni while shooting for his film “Inherit the Wind” in the mid-1950s.
This is also how he met his first wife the Star Trek actress, Julianna McCarthy. Apparently, working with Paul Muni resulted in Michael meeting with multiple brilliant actors. One of them was Julianna, with whom he fell in love and the two eventually got married in 1953.
Michael had two kids with Julianna named Thea and Brendan. However, the couple broke up and got a divorce in 1969.
Soon after, Michael got the opportunity to prove himself as an actor in the ABC’s Emmy winning comedy series ‘Room 222.’ This particular show made Michael a popular actor throughout America. He finally shone as an actor on TV by playing the role of a high-school principal Seymour Kaufman on the ABC series ‘Room 222.’ With his short yet brilliant performance in the show, Constantine got his fame as a television star throughout the country. Moreover, the show also won Michael an Emmy award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.
After ‘Room 222,’ Constantine was featured in another popular and highly remembered comedy show titled ‘Sirota’s Court,’ which aired in 1976.
In the beginning, after doing stage work and other Broadway shows, Constantine finally scored his first film in 1959 ‘The Last Mile.’ Subsequently, he played a small role in ‘The Hustler.’ Although Michael’s role in ‘The Hustler’ was brief, but it is cited as one of his memorable works, and came to be known as Big John, after his role in the film.
Some of Michael’s other notable works include ‘Perry Mason,’ ‘The Case of Blonde Bonanza,’ ‘The Fugitive,’ ‘The North Avenue Irregulars,’ ‘The Untouchables,’ and so on.
The highly popular role played by Michael, for which eve a kid recognizes the legednary star was in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. He played the popular proud and gawdy Windex-toting father named Gus Portokalos in the hit movie franchise ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ in 2002.
In fact, as once told by Gus himself, people had started calling him the Windex-toting father, and associated his character with that of the reel dad that he played. Although it irritated the actor to be known as and called something he was not, he didn’t let that hate come in the way of his work.
Later, he reprised the role in the film based TV series ‘My Big Fat Greek Life,’ and again in the sequel of the first film titled ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.’
In fact, he was so truthful to the character that he was worried if the story, character and everything else would fit in with the actual Greek-American authenticity.
Back in 2016, Constantine talked about his role in the film during an interview. The actor was so true to the character, that he was actually worried that the script might be able to do justice to the authentic Greek-American experience.
Recalling his auditioned for My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Michael had told that before audition, “I asked to read the script, because I was very leery. I didn’t know Nia then [she also penned the screenplay], and I was anxious about someone writing some Greek thing. Was it going to be baloney or was it going to be something by somebody who really knows Greeks? So I read the script and I said, ‘Yes, this person obviously knows Greeks.'”
Michael is also known to play some of the memorable roles such as Santa Claus in the 1989 Canadian fantasy film ‘Prancer.’ The Emmy winner and Golden Globe nominee is also known for his portrayal of Tadzu Lempke in the horror film ‘Thinner.’ Although Constantine was not the lead actor in Stephen King’s horror, but he still played the important role as Suzzane’s father, who curses the protagonist Billy outside courthouse. He touches Billy’s face and puts a curse on him by uttering “Thinner,” to take revenge of his daughter’s death.
Released in 2016, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 was one of the last projects by Michael Constantine.
Besides films, cinema and theater, Constantine has given his fair share to the television industry as well. The star has blessed the TV as well by appearing in shows like ‘Death Valley Days,’ ‘Gunsmoke,’ ‘My Favorite Martian,’ ‘Law & Order,’ ‘Murder: She Wrote,’ ‘Friday the 13th: The Series,’ ‘Hogan’s Heroes,’ ‘Voyage to the Botton of the Sea,’ ‘The Fall Guy,’ ‘The Fantasy Island,’ ’79 Park Avenue,’ ‘Mission: Impossible,’ ‘Channing’, ‘The Dakotas,’ ‘Bonanza,’ ‘The Twilight Zone,’ ‘The Eleventh Hour,’ ‘The Untouchables,’ and many more.
As the news of Michael Constantine’s death came out, Nia Vardalos, the writer and star of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” took it to Twitter on Wednesday to pay a tribute to the actor. Nia wrote, “Michael Constantine, the dad to our cast-family, a gift to the written word, and always a friend. Acting with him came with a rush of love and fun. I will treasure this man who brought Gus to life. He gave us so much laughter and deserves a rest now. We love you Michael.”
Other than that, the My Big Fat Greek Wedding’s writer also shared picture of Michael Constantine and her late father, which was take on the set of the sequel of the movie. Remembering both her real and reel fathers, Nia captioned, “Michael Constantine as ‘Gus’ and my real dad Constantine “Gus” Vardalos, onset#MyBigFatGreekWedding2, May both dad Rest in Peace!”